Today I am writing from Cuzco, Peru. Based on my 1 day in Lima and 3 days in Cuzco I can say that Cuzco is much much better. The buildings in Lima look ugly, the streets are dirty, and the sky is covered with low altitude cloud for the entire day. I'm sure the Historical Centre will look better, but from what I'm hearing here in Cuzco the 4 days I am spending there may be a little much. Cuzco on the other hand is very pretty... The buildings all have old tiled roofs. The streets are paved and narrow. The buildings are all white or pale yellow on top of dark stone. The plazas and churches are incredible.
Cuzco also has way more tourists than Ecuador. This means there are way more locals trying to cater to the tourist tastes. This means that every shop in this area is either a restaurant, a tour operator, an internet cafe, a massage parlour (for the hikers I presume) or a souvenir shop. It also means that there are tourists everywhere. Which makes one feel a little safer - there are so many more targets for theft now (and so many better targets too).
I am staying at the Loki in Cuzco. I chose it because I knew it was a bigger hostel and would have lots of people to meet. Turns out that it gets quite rowdy in the bar at nights and many of the people who are staying here seem more interested in getting drunk than enjoying the city. But it certainly makes watching the Rugby World Cup interesting.
In Lima I stayed at a place that was really close to the airport. The taxi driver kept insisting that I go to Miraflores or the Historical centre of Lima, which is more tourist oriented and safer. I knew that of course and kept insisting he take me to the place I booked in one of the more shady areas of Lima. All the while I was hoping this hostel (a) existed and (b) wasn't really dodgy - especially since there were no reviews of this place on any of the internet sites I visited. But thankfully it was really good (except for the beds). The family that ran it were very friendly and hospitable. They cooked delicious Cebiche for lunch - a local raw seafood dish. It's a pity they're in such a dodgy, tourist barren area.
Yesterday I got to witness a huge procession for another statue of the Virgin Mary. This procession was 100 times bigger than the one in Loja. There were brass bands, dancers, scary masks, lots of colourful dresses and an ornate Virgin statue. It was quite incredible. I only saw it by chance too, which means I didn't have my camera with me. Fortunately there was a short procession today to go into the Cathedral, so I now have some photos.
Tomorrow I begin the center peice of my trip - the Inca Trail, which culminates in an early morning visit to Machu Pichu on the 13th. I am really looking forward to it (except the 4:30 start tomorrow morning). Our group has 7 people in it and 4 of us are Australian. The tour guide is really good too, so it should be a great experience. My next email will probably be a blow by blow account of the hike and I will upload many photos.
I am missing all my friends and family in Australia and hope you are going well. Thank you for your emails and prayers.